James Street South Cookery School: Sweet treats

Serve pavlova with your own choice of berries – you can also add pouring cream
Niall McKenna

I WOULD be the first to hold my hand up and say that I have a very sweet tooth. Desserts and sweet treats are something we can look forward to throughout the year, thanks to the amazing quality of fruit from our local producers in the north.

Whether you spend weekends picking raspberries and strawberries during the summer or enjoy making pies, tarts and jams with the blackberries and apples about to explode in Ireland's fields and hedgerows, we really are spoilt for choice.

An easy and deliciously moreish way to enjoy fruit at any time of year is with meringue. The world is divided on whether a pavlova should be crunchy and sweet or a wedge of gooey wonderfulness that sticks to the teeth.

In our Belfast restaurants, our pavlovas are individual shells that hide a burst of sugary goodness inside. This is a really simple recipe and can be made a few days in advance of any occasion, allowing you to focus on what you might serve with them – which is half the battle in our house!

The second recipe is for a true classic that's a fail-safe dessert or an afternoon treat – and sometimes it is just as easy to make two.


4 egg whites

250g caster sugar

2 tsp cornflour

½ vanilla pod, seeds scraped out

1 tsp white wine vinegar

Pre heat the oven to 150C. Whip the egg whites into soft peaks and slowly add in the sugar while gently whipping; then add the vanilla seeds. Fold in the vinegar and then sieve the cornflour in. This needs to be done very gently.

Cornel the mixture using two spoons into rounds and place on a tray with grease-proof paper. Place in the oven for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven but leave the tray in for a further 30 minutes until it goes cold. Then you can remove the tray. These can be stored for up to five days in an airtight container.

To serve, place the pavlova on a plate or bowl and serve with your own choice of berries, you can also add a little bit of pouring cream.


300g Digestive biscuits

100g butter, melted

390g condensed milk (in a tin)

3 eggs – separate yolk from white and keep both

4 lemons, juiced and zest grated

165g caster sugar

Start by heating the oven to 160C. Place the biscuits into a blender and blend until completely crumbly. Melt the butter in a pot and add in the crumbed digestive biscuits. Once mixed in, press into the base of a tart tin and cool.

To make the lemon mix, place the egg yolks into a large bowl and whisk using an electric whisk for up to a minute. Add in the condensed milk and whisk again, this time for three minutes, then add the zest of the lemons and the juice and whisk again. Pour into the cooled base, place back into the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Let it cool and then chill in the fridge.

Whisk the egg whites in a large, clean bowl until large peaks form; add in the sugar a little at a time and continue to whisk until the mix is thick and glossy. Place on top of the lemon mix. (For the pie in this photo I have used a serrated knife to get the flattened look.) Place back in the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes – it should go slightly browned. Remove, cool and serve.


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